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Street Confrontations

Tenshi Hinanawi edited this page Apr 28, 2012 · 1 revision

Guide to Safety in Street Confrontations

compiled from:

The tips below are provided by veterans of street battles within various contexts. Everyone who seeks to

use them should try to bring as many of the described materials as possible in order to provide extras to

others. But don't carry too much, as it will make it harder to move quickly when quick movements may be

required. Remember: When you record and document, you allow the world to watch, and to act; bring

more than one recording device and keep one concealed if possible, and in such a way that you may set it

to record without it being known.

Remember, the carrying capacity of the group also counts. Distribute supplies as per your group strategy

and do so as evenly as possible among protestors.

Protection & Safety


Bicycle helmets provide good protection. Those designed for down-hill racing provide full-face

cover and are the most secure. Construction helmets (hard hats) will also help protect the head, and

are as widely available as bicycle helmets.

A towel or thick cloth wrapped around the head can provide some protection, but is not optimal. It

can then be covered with a metal bowl or pot for more protection but it is important that you are

still able to see.

Remember: The momentum shock to the head can still cause internal injuries, even if the outside

of the head appears uninjured. Don’t wear things which can easily be grabbed (such as dangly

earrings or other jewelry).

Face Masks make it difficult to identify individuals, and if everyone wears masks none will stand out.

Hoods will cover most of your face and baseball caps protect you from most cameras mounted

above. Some of the best masks are t-shirts. Put your head in a shirt, use the neck hole for the

eyeholes and tie the sleeves around the back of your head

The best protection against chemical weapons is a gas mask. Any kind of mask should be tried on

and sized before you’re in the streets fumbling with unfamiliar straps. When paired with goggles,

respirators make an excellent alternative to gas masks. It is necessary to do some homework

beforehand and find goggles that are shatterproof, don’t fog up, and that fit tightly on your face

with the respirator. Respirators may be available at safety supply or welding supply vendors. Ask for

filters for particulates and organic chemicals and tell the clerk what you’re filtering to double check.

A bandanna soaked in water or vinegar and tied tightly around the nose and mouth is a last resort.

It is far better than nothing, but remember that it is merely a barrier and not a filter and so won’t do

much for long-term protection. You can keep it soaking in a plastic bag until ready to use. Bring

several, as multiple uses will render a bandanna as gassy as the air around you.

For protecting your eyes, swim goggles work well as they have a tight seal. Shatter resistance is very

important (a rubber bullet to the eye can be disastrous). Most goggles have air holes to prevent

fogging—fill these with epoxy. Covering these holes with duct tape can work in a pinch against an

initial attack, though not for long term protection. Try them on with your respirator or bandanna to

ensure that they are compatible and that both will provide a tight seal.

Don’t wear contact lenses, which can trap irritating chemicals underneath.


Wear thick clothes if you will be in range of rocks or other objects being thrown. Multiple layers

may help protect against broken bones or other severe injuries. Wear heavy-duty gloves if you plan

to handle hot tear gas canisters, fresh clothes in plastic bag (in case yours get contaminated by

chemical weapons)

Shoes These should be relatively sturdy, but still comfortable to run in, and non slippery, and, if possible,

resistant to chemicals. Dont wear anything that may slip off, make sure laces are double knotted,



Avoid use of petroleum jelly, mineral oil, oil-based sunscreen, lotions, moisturizers, or detergents on

skin because they can trap chemicals and thereby prolong exposure. Wash your clothes, your hair

and your skin beforehand in a detergent-free soap. We recommend using a water or alcohol- based

sunscreen (rather than oilbased). If your choice is between oilbased or nothing, we advocate using

the sunscreen. Getting pepper sprayed on top of a sunburn is not fun. We also recommend

minimizing skin exposure by covering up as much as possible.


Something to protect forearms with as these are a natural guard to cover face/head. Chin guards or

rolled up news papers are good alternatives. Foam plastic is a handy and light-to-carry protection

against all kinds of blows. Chairs, and folding step ladders also work as personal protection.


Keep blankets and water on hand to be used together in case of a person on fire. Use a wet blanket

to put out the fire. Do not try to use water to put petroleum (gasoline) fires out. Even a simple first-aid kit can prove very helpful in unpredictable circumstances (see below).

Safety in numbers

Remain alert and aware of your safety and the safety of people around you.

Remember you must try to avoid violence to protect the legitimacy of your movement.


Avoid heavy protein intake during active times. It is difficult to digest and will slow you down.

Carbohydrates are recommended to keep your body in energy. Banana's are good. Sugar is a quick

remedy in situations of energy lack, but it can cause your blood sugar level to drop rapidly later on.

Take care of drinking enough. At downtime, when you will have a few hours to rest, try if you can

to eat a healthy balanced meal, and get some rest.

List of objects needed to assist protesters

  • Towels

  • Water

  • Fire extinguishers (do not take all fire extinguishers from an area, only extra's you can spare)

  • Blankets, and fire blankets if possible

  • Hard hats, bicycle helmets, and other head protection, sports protective gear, motorcycle and offroad


  • Pots and metal bowls which can act as protection for the head in combination with a towel or other


  • Thick clothes

  • First Aid kits, supplies, and bandages

  • Ladders

  • Step ladders or other items which can provide some use as shields

  • Soap and disinfectants

  • Safety Pins and Tape

Some Recommended Contents for a First Aid Kit

  • Adhesive tape

  • Alcohol

  • Rubbing and wipes

  • Aspirin

  • Cotton swabs

  • Disposable latex gloves

  • Elastic bandages

  • Face mask for CPR

  • Flashlight

  • Hot-water bottle

  • Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Safety pins

  • Salt

  • Scissors

  • Sugar or glucose solution

  • Thermometer

  • Waterproof tape

The source of this document will have other documents for you soon. Also see the Guide to Protecting the

North African Revolution series for additional expertise on defense, offense, tactics, and security; this may

be found via Google.


If expecting

  • If you see it coming or get a warning, put on protective gear.

  • If able, try to move away or get upwind.

  • Stay calm. Panicking increases the irritation.

  • Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary.

  • Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough and spit. Try not to swallow.

  • If you wear contacts, try to remove the lenses or get someone to remove them for you, with clean,

uncontaminated fingers.

If exposed to

For the eyes

We recommend a solution of half liquid antacid (like Maalox) and half water. A spray bottle is ideal

but a bottle that has a squirt cap works as well. Always irrigate from the inside corner of the eye

towards the outside, with head tilted back and slightly towards the side being rinsed. It seems from

our trials that it needs to get into the eye to help. This means that if the sprayed person says


okay you should try to open their eye for them. They most likely won’t be able/willing to open it

themselves, and opening will cause a temporary increase in pain, but the solution does help. It works

great as a mouth rinse too.

For the skin

We recommend canola oil followed by alcohol. Carefully avoiding the eyes, vigorously wipe the skin

that was exposed to the chemical with a rag or gauze sponge saturated with canola oil. Follow this

immediately with a rubbing of alcohol. Remember that alcohol in the eyes hurts A LOT. Anyone

whose eyes you get alcohol in will not be your friend.

Secondary treatments can include

spitting, blowing your nose, coughing up mucous (you don’t want to swallow these chemicals!),

walking around with your arms outstretched, removing contaminated clothing, and taking a cool

shower. In fact, it is essential to shower and wash your clothes (this time in real detergents) as soon

as you are able. This shit is toxic, and will continually contaminate you and everyone around you

until you get rid of it. Until then, try not to touch your eyes or your face, or other people, furniture,

carpets etc. to avoid further contamination. Remember, it is only temporary, and we are extremely


Staying Safe & Sensible in an Action

A demonstration where police might attack requires a higher level of tactical awareness than your run-of-the-mill picket. Here are some generally applicable suggestions to help you stay safe and effective in the


Always have a safe space in mind. All demonstrators need to be aware of a safe place to get to if a

situation grows out of hand. You define “safe” and “unsafe” for yourself. For some, safe is among the locked

arms of fellow activists, right on the front lines; but there’s no shame in a lower threshold, for any number

of reasons. Safe spaces change depending on movement and barriers by other demonstrators and the

police, etc. In some cases they include wide open spaces or public areas. Other times they may take the

form of an alleyway or similar hiding spot. There’s no hard and fast rule about finding a safe space, but the

time to have one in mind is before the shit hits the fan.

Always have an exit in mind. Assess how to leave a bad situation. Maybe it is best to be in a large group

for protection. But if the police are herding you like cattle, then the large crowd is their focus and you may

need to break up and leave in small groups. Getting away one moment might be your only chance to be

active the next. Arrange with your buddies how to leave, and how to re-connect if you get separated.

Use the buddy system and move in a group. If at all possible, make sure to have a partner you can trust, to

whom you will always stay close. That way, at least one person always knows your whereabouts and

condition. Working in small groups of people, all of whom you know well and trust with your own safety,

is another important factor. Even if you are not part of an organized group with a plan of action, it is

helpful to at least be with folks you can rely on.

Be aware of crowd dynamics and dangers. You need to know what is going on - not just in view, but

around the corners and a few blocks away. Pay attention to the mood of the crowd and the police. Certain

actions like property destruction and violence will likely be caused by or result in violent behavior on the

part of police. Be aware of police movement and different groups of protestors entering or leaving an area.

Try to monitor the vibes and focuses of friends and foes at all times.

Know what is going on out of view by regularly sending out scouts to investigate what the police and

other demonstrators are up to. Since the situation at a dynamic protest will change frequently and rapidly,

scouts need to check around and report back often. It’s a good idea to appoint a pair of group members as


Don’t act on rumors. It’s common at demonstrations for someone to approach a group of activists

shouting, “The riot cops are coming!” As often as not, of course, there are no police coming at all. These

people may simply be panicking, or they may be agents trying to confuse you. Acting on bad information

is disruptive at best, and often dangerous. All critical information needs to be verified. If the person

conveying info can’t claim to have witnessed something directly, or if he or she is a stranger, then that

information is unreliable.

Assume the riot cops may be coming. While acting on rumors and fear-mongering can be disruptive and

dangerous, it shouldn’t be surprising when the “authorities” do decide to blockade, surround, penetrate or

break up a demonstration. This happens frequently, and the key to not being caught off guard is to stay


Don’t panic; help others stay calm. Sometimes at actions, the situation grows just plain frightening. But

panic reduces critical judgment, adapting and coping abilities, and it can spread rapidly. Our best defense

in a crisis is our collective cool - keeping each other centered & focused. If you can’t stay focused and

centered, then you need to quit the demo to calm down. Similarly, if someone else can’t be calmed down,

they need to leave.

Your best offense and defense is being part of a solid group. Groups combine various skills and powers.

Savvy groups practice often, plan, and develop amazing strategies and tactics that are beyond the abilities

of individuals. They have the numbers to do the various tasks: act, scout, medical, communicate with

others, security, etc, yet they are small enough to act quickly.

Fighting Police Tactics

Often, the police strategy at a protest they want to end is to disperse the participants. They tend to operate

in coordinated units, and use the following tactics

  • Show of force to intimidate and scare people away.

  • Surprise attacks by troops hidden in reserve.

  • Surround and isolate entire crowds – sometimes not allowing people to leave or enter. They may

also try to divide the crowd by moving into it at its weakest point. If you see the police about to

attack your weak spot, try to reinforce it. When dispersing demonstrators, they may try to drive

them like cattle towards certain areas and away from other areas. Your group can avoid the cattle

drive dynamic by splitting off from the crowd. This can be effective if the police are operating as

small units and not splitting up to deal with smaller groups outside the crowd.

  • Police will often use snatch squads to perform surprise arrests of individuals they have chosen at

random from the crowd, or whom they identify as “leaders” or “troublemakers”. Snatch squads often

are made up of, or collaborate with undercover agents, and can strike at any time. The best time to

stop a snatch is as soon as the snatch has happened. You need a group of people to break the police’s

grip and some people to act as blocks. An important and low risk role in the de-arrest involves

simply placing your body between the police and their target. Once you have your person back, all

should link arms and disappear into the crowd. The police may try to snatch back or arrest one of

the de-arresters. Surrounding police vehicles containing arrestees and preventing them from moving

might lead to them being released. Cars don’t move very well when they have flat tires, but keep in

mind that when tires are punctured they can be loud.

Always be on the look-out for where your friends are, and be ready to act clearly and sensibly at a

moment's notice.

Outmaneuvering The Police

Don’t let yourself be intimidated onto the sidewalk. Police will push marches onto sidewalks in order to

thin them out and divide them into smaller groups. Once the police force a march onto the sidewalk they

can much more easily direct its movements and single out troublemakers.

Street crossings can be used to move into the roadway though groups may have to turn. In instances like

this people walking bicycles can help form barriers, which will slow down police trying to push into the


Police move slow, so move quickly and in a large tight group. Occasionally running in a coordinated

manner will help to keep the police always behind you. Countdowns will not only intimidate the police

but they get you all charged up before running. Moving the wrong way down one-way streets my thin out

the demonstration (as people have to make room for stopped cars) but it makes it very difficult for large

groups of police to follow. Look outwards from the crowd. If someone is being administered first aid, face

away from them.

Form cordons around anything the police want. (buildings, sound equipment, etc.)

Sitting down is good for dissuading police charging but only in large numbers. Sometimes sitting is not

really worth it. Horses and camels are unpredictable. Particularly violent cops, especially those employing

gases or rubber bullets, may be dangerous to sit in front of.

Throwing is a defensive act. It may not be wise to throw stuff at the best of times – that will only provoke

them and make them want to hit you harder. If you want to throw, do it defensively, strategically, and en

masse – a constant hail of debris will create a ‘sterile area’ where the police will not want to go.

Remember: don’t throw to attack or cause injury. Throw from the front and then disappear into the crowd.

Only jerks throw from the back.

Gas canisters can be thrown or kicked away from the crowd before they explode. Be careful! Don’t pick up

with your bare hands, as they can be very hot. They will explode.

Barricades can be more hassle than they are worth. Impassable blockades may be an inconvenience to you

when you need to run. The best barricades are random material like newspaper boxes, dumpsters turned

on the side, and road or construction material, strewn all over. One or two groups can lift small parked cars

and place them in the street with out damaging them.

The best defense is chaos. If situations change constantly the police cannot keep up. Keep moving. Change

your appearance. Open new directions and possibilities. Be unpredictable.

Watch out for provocateurs including but not limited to “peace police”. These self appointed enforcers of

“peace” infiltrate demonstrations and try to prevent people from walking in the street or engaging in many

forms of protest. They sometimes wear armbands (usually white) and will report people to the police or

attempt to apprehend them personally. Also watch out for individuals trying to instigate violence against

obvious non-targets. These people are often police or employed by them to discredit us.

Countering the Police

With any rowdy crowd, the police will be trying to break it up.They will try to intimidate and disperse

crowds using baton line charges, horse charges, vehicles, gases, rubber/wooden bullets and a few violent


The dance steps will include one or more of these:

  • Cops in lines will surround you.

  • Either from the middle or one side, the cop lines will force everyone onto the sidewalk trying to

create ‘spectators’ & ‘actors’ out of the crowd.

  • Baton/horse/gas attack to lower morale.

  • Loud speakers, and concussion grenades, to disorient and breakup the crowd.

  • Line charges will slowly push the crowd down the street to where they want you (rush of cops à fall

back à strengthen line à repeat).

  • The police cannot arrest large groups of people unless they have lots of little plastic handcuffs.

  • The police won’t use tear gas unless they have their own gas masks on.

Stop the lines from forming! Surrounding you, preventing you from going where you want to go, and

pushing you down the street to where they want you to go, all require the police to be in a tight line. It is

important to prevent the first lines from forming. If the crowd seems volatile, they will hold back and form

their lines a distance away. But if the crowd is hanging around looking confused and passive they will

sneak in and form the lines amongst you.

  • Don’t stand and watch them. Always stay moving

  • Don’t look like you’ll let them anywhere near you.

  • Spot gaps in the crowd and fill them. stick together.

  • Figure out where they want to go and get there first.

  • Protect your escape routes by standing in front of them.

  • Get those people who turned into ‘spectators’ back into the crowd and moving around.

Now they may just charge and start arresting. At least you are in a stronger position to deal and your

escape routes are secured. Whatever happens next, don’t stand there waiting for it. Keep moving and

acting defensively.

If they have blocked your only exit try counter advancing

  • this involves moving your lines into theirs thus gaining more space and opening up more exits.

  • Use the front line as a solid wall, linking arms and moving slowly forward.

  • Try a countdown for a faster advance.

  • Use the banner as a plow (this prevents them from breaking your line). Dumpsters on wheels, saw

horses and fencing also work.

If they have blocked your only exit try reforming

always look for ways to increase your number, by joining up with other groups and absorbing

stragglers. Everyone has to get out and you’ll stand a better chance of getting out unharmed, with

all your belongings and equipment if you leave together at the same time.

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